For 2017 I made it a goal to read only female writers and authors. Why? Well, because I’ve succumb to the feminist agenda of our age, obviously. Or perhaps I just believe that there are strong, brave, intelligent and even prophetic female voices that need to permeate my perspective. I was not disappointed. This year, I journeyed with inspirations like Brene Brown, to delve into vulnerability and bravery. I walked alongside Monica Coleman as she learnt to live and thrive with a manic-depressive mood disorder. Kay Redfield-Jamison’s books have challenged me to understand the suicidal mind and the melancholic temperament (I know this isn’t everyone's jam, but if it’s yours, start with Redfield’s “An Unquiet Mind”). I re-read (well re-listened to, actually) Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People”. I also discovered Jen Hatmaker’s collection of books, most of which she herself reads in the audiobook form (always a bonus for the avid audiobook listener).
Other referrals I feel confident making are “Faith Unravelled”, “A Year in Biblical Womanhood”, and “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans, “Jesus Feminist” and “Out of Sorts” by Sarah Bessey, and “Faithful Families” by Traci Smith. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover any new fiction this year (due solely to my own laziness) but I will always recommend Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and the marvelous collection of 19th century social commentary written by Jane Austen.
This year has made me mindful of not only the fantastic host of women who have written down their own stories and thoughts for the world to glean from, but of the numerous women in my own life and in my own community who have flourished in leadership roles. I’ve become accustomed to this luxury, of having leaders to aspire to and role models that inspire me. I didn’t always have this luxury.
I became aware this year of the importance of seeing individuals that are “like you” in positions of leadership. By “like you” I don’t mean that I want us all to be alike or for us to strive for sameness. I mean that as a woman if I don’t see women in leadership, how will I know that I can do that job and be that leader? This is something many of us take for granted and we remain unaware of the discrepancies that exist for women and people of colour. Okay, I’ll come right out and say it so go ahead and get your hate-mail ready; this is a privilege for the white men among us. I’m not saying this out of anger, it’s just the reality. Look at our government structures. Look at our churches. Who are the leaders? Who preaches every sunday? Who gets voted in? Do you see people that look like you in those positions? If you don’t, can you really say that it doesn’t affect your aspirations and ambitions? If you do, what does this inspire in you?
I come from a fairly conservative, Mennonite background. I’m not used to seeing women in leadership roles. Heck, for my less than 3 decades of life some of my circles have been debating whether a woman should be allowed to read scripture from the pulpit and we haven’t gotten very far. My fear is that this is detrimental to not only the young women among us, and especially young women of colour, but to our faith communities and the Church (note the capital “C”) in general. I say this because for the last few years I’ve been trying to mentor young women of colour and I don’t know where to send them to church. I want them to find role models, to see Indigenous women preaching and leading and helping to make all the important decisions. I want them to see their own great potential and God’s imaginative plan for their lives but, as Romans 10:14-15 aptly asks, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’’ (NIV). Note that it does not clarify what sex or colour those feet are (#sorrynotsorry for my sass).
Photo Credit: Ben Kroeker